A/N: Hey, Miyako1Lee3Rulez, if you're reading this, I addressed the comments from your last review at the bottom of this chapter!
The corner of the shack was not the most comfortable place to sleep but if nothing else it did not result in springs making awkward noises all night and waking up the next morning having sunk several inches into the mildewy mattress. And after all, it was not as though he was unaccustomed to sleeping in the corner. When he woke up the next morning his back ached a little from the stiffness of the walls but at least he could say that his posture was more than a little improved.
Obviously, he decided, the first thing to do would be to stop giving himself excuses to pity himself. Though he ignored it under the banner of 'punishing himself' his job was really paid quite well (no-one else would ever be convinced to work in the cemetery; they thought it was haunted and they were more-or-less right, really, which he found amusing), and his expenses were really quite minimal (the only time he ever bought anything that wasn't basic groceries was when he bought flowers, and that was rare enough to be considered a special expense). Even the groceries were unnecessary, to be honest, but over the years he had gotten very used to eating and at the moment it was one of the few things that made life worth living. Occasionally he would even treat himself, try mixing up something new, or something from the old days, and sometimes he would cook with Rosette and Magd-
They were here now, peering through the windows, Mary whispering to Rosette behind one hand and Rosette almost shouting back at her. Yes, during the night and the day before he had decided to get rid of them, but surely one more day couldn't hurt?
He opened the door and let them in wordlessly, and Rosette immediately began loudly commenting on the state of the house, just as he had known she would, and Mary staying silent but looking concerned behind her.
So there. It had been decided for him. The first thing to address would be his shack. He'd make it a house. If he was living somewhere clean and warm and friendly he'd have less opportunities for self-pity. Though he wasn't sure where to start…
Magdelene suggested that he start with the bed, because a good night's sleep led to a happier outlook on life. Rosette just warned him not to put it too near the window. Useful input as always. So to begin he ripped the musty smelling blankets off the bed and looped them over tree branches outside in the fresh air. He considered them carefully – replace them entirely, or just clean them off and hope for the best?
Magdalene laughed. "How like you, Chrono, to make a decision like that. Nothing is beyond repairing! Look." She took the sheets in her hands and held them out. "No holes, no tears; just clean them properly. You do know how to clean sheets, don't you?"
He didn't reply. Of course he did.
"Well there. Quite simple."
"Chrono! Look at this mattress!" Rosette called him from inside and he put his head back into the shack to see her leaping on the bed, bedsprings almost screaming under her feet. "I think this one's a goner!"
He looked back at Mary to seek her advice, and she put one hand over her mouth lightly as she considered. "Sadly, I agree with Rosette. It's past its use-by date. Ah! Why don't you put it out for children to play on?" Chrono just angled her a look and she laughed. "A little inappropriate, I suppose. But Chrono, honestly. There has to be some form of joy in death or what is the point of living?"
It suited Magdalene, in his mind, to appear wise and thoughtful. It had been too long, far too long since he had last spoken to her, and it was almost as though he was forgetting how she had been, and twisting her into how he thought she should be.
He had been right. He really did need to be by himself. But just for now…no harm, right?
With Magdalene's encouragement he managed to tug the mattress off the bedframe and lug it into the storage room beneath the house. Thankfully it was a quiet day at the cemetery today which spared him many awkward looks. Then he found his phone (which he used very rarely and was hidden away somewhere) to call and arrange the delivery of a new mattress which would fit his bed. Surveying the shack, he decided that the next step would be just general cleaning. Perhaps some organisation would be thrown in too, but really, his primary concern was all the rubbish that had piled up (after all, he was a hoarder, and he'd been here a damn long time). With Rosette and Magdalene providing suggestions on what was worth keeping (very little) and what was worth throwing out (almost everything) he managed to demolish the mounds of trash. He piled the garbage bags in one corner of the shack until there were too many to fit and they were spilling into the rest of the room, and then slowly dragged each one outside to pile them underneath another short tree. When he was finished Rosette slapped him on the back.
"Chrono! Look! It's the floor!"
"You know, I always liked houses with visible floors," Magdalene sighed, holding her skirt out delicately as she sat down and then settling it around her legs. "This is quite a nice floor, too. I think it should stay like this."
It was much nicer, he had to admit, looking around. He could see the floor; once there was a new mattress the bed would be comfortable; and perhaps he could put a chair in the corner where he always ended up sleeping, both to discourage himself from continuing to sleep there and to provide slightly more comfort when he inevitably slept there.
So what was next in the process of cleaning up his life? Of course, cleaning the sheets. He took the spade from the shed behind the house – that's what it was, it was a house now, a house that someone could live in, not exist in – and hit the sheets with the long wooden end, almost losing his balance with each whack.
This hit was for his self-pity, sending out a thick cloud of dust which blew away in the wind, blew away from his life, from his house, from his world. This one was for his past life of moping and being miserable, and this was for his own refusal to live. Finally the force of his hits were too much and he fell backwards onto the ground, landing on his back in the grass and dirt, and had to laugh as he lay there and watched the dust drift into the clear sky.
He was laughing. Chrono was laughing, lying flat on his back, staring at the sky, being showered with dust, laughing. He hadn't laughed so much in a long, long time, and now he couldn't stop, his voice hoarse from disuse, about to turn into a hacking cough at any moment, eyes crinkling, mouth smiling, laughing up at the sky as Rosette and Mary threw themselves down around him so that their heads formed a circle.
He actually felt lighter, physically lighter, as though he could float away. But he couldn't float away, not quite yet. He relaxed into the ground and held his hands up to the sky once he could start breathing again, grasping out as if to hold the scraps of clouds in his hands. Slowly, turning their faces to mutter quietly to one another, Rosette and Magdalene stretched their hands up too, and Chrono laughed quietly one more time before he stood up.
He had to do it. He'd arranged everything else; his shack was a home, he had been laughing…perhaps he should wait, contact Sheda (she had to be still around) or Satella (no, he couldn't. He couldn't talk to Satella again), make sure he had some other support before cutting off his lifelines…
This is it. Clean break. Say goodbye to them now and maybe if you ever see them again (oh, I see, you still haven't given up hope of getting to Heaven someday, well, good luck with – no, he wouldn't, he knew he wouldn't, but maybe just maybe he could see them) if you see them again you can look them in the eyes and smile and talk and laugh again and maybe just maybe you could look them in the eye. You know this isn't them, this is nothing, you will go out tomorrow, you'll go out tomorrow and get on with your life, meet some real people, real people who think and do what they want and aren't always out for your best interest. I'm not saying I can't ever talk to people, just real people, have a real life….
Put it like this. Imagine seeing them again, both of them, and imagine them finding out that you've spent all this time wandering around with imaginary friends modelled after whatever aspects of them you recall. Chrono shuddered and coughed to draw the attention of his imagined friends.
"I think you should go now," he whispered to himself.
"Do you want to get rid of us?" Magdalene asked, in her soft voice.
"No, no. But I don't think you would be happy if I saw what I was doing?"
"What're you talking about?" Rosette bellowed. "Are ya saying you don't need us around any more?"
Chrono could not believe his own imagination could have been so obstinate. He sighed, and tried to think of the best way to put this. "Well, yes. Or at least, I think it's time I tried to convince myself of that fact."
"That's good," Rosette said, her voice softening. "It's about time!"
"I'm glad. It's time for us to go."
"And stop it with all this hell stuff, will ya, Chrono? You're a good guy. And you've got us behind ya every step of the way."
"Have faith, Chrono!" Magdalene laughed. It was a chiming laugh, one which he had only heard a few times in reality and echoed in his dreams. Both of them leaned forwards, carefully rested their hands on Chrono's shoulders for a few moments, then spun around and seemed to dissolve.
He was alone.
For the first time in so many years, he was alone. Alone.
But he was okay with that. In a few days, he'd have a house.
He'd never really be able to leave the cemetery, but he would be alright.
Just for this night, he wrapped himself in blankets and slept underneath the tree.
He would be alright.
He was forced to somewhat re-evaluate the situation, however, when he was woken from his rest sometime in the late morning, by a small blonde girl poking him in the bare arm.
"You're all wet," she said. Then, with a slightly crooked smile, "My name's Rosie. Why are you sleeping outside?"
A/N: Thanks to everyone for all of their reviews!
Note for Miyako1Lee3Rulez: Just to clear some stuff up for you, Satella is still alive because she was frozen for all those years. I think she's only around her twenties now. Chrono is in what I like to refer to as his Wild-West form, the form he had in volume 6 of the manga and when he returned to Rosette at the end of the manga. Though he's not physically old, he is starting to feel very aged, which is why he feels as though his joints are old and aching. I hope this clears everything up for you (otherwise just leave a review with any comments/message me)
Sorry to everyone for such a delay between updates! You know how the real world is…